Heath completed a pre-Christmas clean sweep of Yorkshire One derby wins with an 18-14 success over Old Crossleyans at Broomfield yesterday.
Scrum and maul domination was the key to victory for Dave Harrison’s side, who are now only one point behind the second-placed Crocs with free-scoring Moortown the new leaders.
The only surprise was that the North Dean men couldn’t cross the home try line, testament to the rock-solid defence their hosts have cultivated under Gareth Greenwood.
Instead, the visitors scrambled home with six penalties from centre Ezra Hinchliffe, the last two coming after Crocs had hit the front on 62 minutes with the game’s only try, a length-of-the-field breakaway from Chris Vine.
Heath’s pack power always threatened to be the deciding factor on a pitch made heavy by rain during the previous 24 hours.
They unceremoniously shoved Crocs off their own scrum ball and made ground through driving mauls and pick and go runs from the forwards.
If Harrison was frustrated at the lack of a try he didn’t let it show afterwards, saying: “We’ll take that (result).”
He revealed that Heath’s number one goal for the season had been to make amends for their near miss in the promotion stakes last time. The number two target was to beat the Crocs, Old Brodleians and Old Rishworthians both home and away.
They are well on course for both objectives and with the heavier winter pitches set to suit, Heath look well placed for a promotion push if they can avoid a raft of injuries and be consistent.
Crocs have been a surprise packet so far this season and yesterday’s defeat was only their second in 12 games, after a loss at Moortown.
Greenwood insists his project at Crocs is very much in its infancy and after being a mid-table Yorkshire Two side at the start of 2018 his men had been punching above their weight.
They had done all they could against Heath with the forwards available at the club and it would take a year or two to build the team he wanted.
“Everyone knew they (Heath) would do the scrum and rolling maul stuff,” he said. “I am not massively down. We had known all week what was likely to happen.”
A crowd of around 400 saw Crocs, with lively young scrum half Joe Stott to the fore, apply early pressure, aided by a string of penalties for tackles which were ruled too high.
Full back Callum Dunne was short with an ambitious penalty shot from near the touchline but gave his side the lead from much closer to the posts on six minutes.
Heath had only briefly touched the ball at this stage but they dominated possession from then on as they brought forward pressure to bear.
Errors in advanced positions did not help their cause but Hinchliffe, after a surprise miss, slotted penalties on 26 and 30 minutes to give Heath a 6-3 advantage.
Home centre Jack Hammond had snuffed out the sole try threat up to this stage, bundling Si Brown into touch near the corner flag after the winger had gathered a diagonal kick.
Dunne made it 6-6 on 33 minutes but when play was stopped for an injury, Heath won a penalty at the subsequent scrum and Hinchliffe’s straight 30 metre effort made it 9-6 at half time.
Crocs knocked on at the restart and Heath winger Callum Harriott-Brown should have scored wide on the left but failed to hang on to a regulation pass.
Hinchliffe, usually Mr Reliable with the boot in derby games, missed a second easy penalty shortly after but then stretched the lead to six points as Crocs tried to dig in with hard-working No 8 Ryan Hammond in the sin-bin.
Dunne stroked over an excellent penalty on 58 minutes and Crocs took the lead shortly after when Heath lost possession near the Crocs line and Vine hared away close to the bottom touchline with Hinchliffe and Harriett-Brown just unable to catch him.
Dunne was unable to convert and Heath, with more big men coming off the bench and their forward dominance now overwhelming, won it with penalties from Hinchliffe after 70 and 75 minutes.